back to article Space Force boss warns 'the US will lose' without help from Musk and Bezos

The commander of the US Space Force (USSF) has warned that America risks losing its dominant position in space, and therefore on Earth too. In a speech yesterday at the Space Foundation's 2024 Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, USSF boss general Chance Saltzman said unprecedented challenges from Russia and China mean that …

  1. Phones Sheridan Silver badge

    “ Russia now challenging our space superiority”

    What superiority? How long has the ISS been being serviced by Soyuz because the US decided space was hard and expensive?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      You really haven't been paying attention, have you?

      In 2023, 80 percent of the roughly 1,000 metric tonnes that humans placed in orbit was by just one US-based company. The same company has been sending astronauts and cosmonauts to the ISS.

      Feel free to expand upon your odd assertion.

  2. Yorick Hunt Silver badge
    Megaphone

    Space Force boss warns "I need my under-the-table kickbacks, damnit!"

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Hey man, the cost of living crisis affects us all!

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Ironic if they just nationalized Spacex and he just got "thoughts and prayers" from the investors

    3. Philo T Farnsworth

      While I wouldn't go that far, I did detect a whiff of the equivalent of what in the journalistic trade is called "beat sweetening" (which is puffing up a source in exchange for future "access").

      Those cushy after retirement board appointments and consulting gigs don't make themselves you know.

      Meanwhile, back at Reality Ranch, one is tempted to be just a wee bit skeptical of putting one's trust in, shall we say, somewhat erratic and capricious billionaires.

      Not naming names or anything.

  3. sanmigueelbeer
    Coat

    General Chance Saltzman's post-retirement life is all but guaranteed to be "very well taken care of".

  4. jake Silver badge

    I guess it's a plan. Kinda. Sorta. If you squint.

    Bankrupt the Chinese with an unwinnable technology race, just like the West bankrupt the Russians starting in the 50s and running through the 70s and well into the 80s.

    Note that the Russians still haven't fully recovered, and thus will not be a major player in the game this time around ... the only questions remaining are whether or not the Chinese are stupid enough to fall for it, and whether or not the US has the intestinal fortitude to spend the ungawdly amount of money it will cost.

    1. SundogUK Silver badge

      Re: I guess it's a plan. Kinda. Sorta. If you squint.

      It's not going to cost all that much if SpaceX has anything to do with it. That's kinda part of his point.

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: I guess it's a plan. Kinda. Sorta. If you squint.

      "with an unwinnable technology race." "the only questions remaining are whether or not the Chinese are stupid enough to fall for it"

      No, the question is whether it actually is an unwinnable race and whether or not the US would actually win it. Because right now the US has it's shotgun aimed at it's foot and the finger on the trigger.

    3. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: I guess it's a plan. Kinda. Sorta. If you squint.

      It may have escaped your notice but we (the US) bankrupted ourselves at the same time. The difference between Russia and the US today is that we're now literally up to our eyeballs in debt and they're not. We've only been able to maintain that position because our currency is used for global commerce -- we can print it and others effectively pick up the tab. We then weaponized it, forcing others to find ways to avoid using it, a process that won't happen overnight but will demote our currency to 'just another piece of paper'.

      Anyway, both Russia and China are quite good and launching stuff into space. The only edge we have is re-usability (thanks, SpaceX) and its only a matter of time before someone else figures it out. (My money's on China.....but I wouldn't count out the Russians just yet).

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: I guess it's a plan. Kinda. Sorta. If you squint.

        "The only edge we have is re-usability (thanks, SpaceX) and its only a matter of time before someone else figures it out. (My money's on China.."

        Yes, it's worth keeping an eye on what other countries are up to. I note that most of the "big" YouTube channels seem to almost exclusively report on US space adventures with a nod to some of the others. This one shows a lot of what the Chinese are up to. I've seen very little reporting of the Chinese landing a 1st stage similar to SpaceX.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: I guess it's a plan. Kinda. Sorta. If you squint.

      "and whether or not the US has the intestinal fortitude to spend the ungawdly amount of money it will cost."

      You assume the US has that much money. Isn't China one of the US largest creditors, holding a significant amount of US debt?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mind the gap

    I'm just shocked that they have allowed this to threaten us.

    The moment they close the balloon gap, they should get right onto closing the space gap.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mind the gap

      I think the balloon gap is an inflated problem.

      1. alisonken1
        Pint

        Re: Mind the gap

        Bada-Bing!

  6. DS999 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Just what we want

    Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos to build satellites capable of taking down other satellites!

    Our big defense contractors don't have one individual who is majority owner, so even if the CEO was a loon he couldn't decide to go Dr Evil on us. I mean between the two Bezos already looks like Dr Evil and Musk already acts like him, so I think before anything like this is considered their company has to be publicly traded and no one including but especially them should be allowed to have more than 10% ownership or voting control of the company.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Just what we want

      I think what Saltzman is after is a way to prevent Russia/China from disabling US satellites. I do not know what that would look like. Making satellites too dark to been seen with a telescope. Watching the trajectory of antisatellite launches and dodging. Threatening to blow up something in response to a US satellite being damaged. Some other concept.

      I think what the US government / millitary really needs is better skills at negotiating and completing contracts. Otherwise they will just get ripped off again either by the usual suspects or the new ones.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Just what we want

        Stop depending on satellites. They are too vulnerable, ever since Bird-One in You Only Live Twice (1967) the capability has existed to capture and eat spacecraft in any orbit.

      2. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Just what we want

        It is 100% impossible to prevent someone from disabling a satellite. All you have to do is crash into it and it is out. If you want to disable a lot at once you'd need an EMP which requires a nuke, but "disabling half your active satellites" is going to be seen as an act of war regardless of the method used so you must as well use a nuke on the "in for a penny in for a pound" theory.

        And yes, I 100% believe that Russia and the US, and probably China soon if not already, all have nukes in orbit despite treaty commitments or what they claim.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Just what we want

          Maybe not. If you just want to pass by a certain point in space, rather than getting into stable orbit, you can probably do it faster from the ground than by trying to move something that is in orbit. You need less energy, so you don't need an orbital rocket to do it. Since you are just needing a ballistic missile, they already have a fleet of them and a distributed launch infrastructure.

          There's not really much value in nukes while they are sitting in orbit, so probably better to just leave them on the ground until needed.

          Perhaps they will be upgrading the ballistic missiles to specifically target higher orbits like the Glonass and Galileo ones? But then again, since they did the basic experiments on this a couple of decades ago, they probably already have.

          1. DS999 Silver badge

            Re: Just what we want

            Launches of an ICBM are seen by everyone. A satellite could drop off a "package" with a nonreflective coating which could spend hours, days or even months slowly moving toward its objective before it blows up and all anyone knows is a nuke exploded in space. They can't conclusively prove whose it is, though like when an enemy of Putin falls out of a 7th story window it would be pretty easy to guess who is responsible.

      3. Richard 12 Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Just what we want

        Taking down a random satellite is absolutely trivial and it cannot be prevented by technological means.

        If you can launch 100kg into orbit with reasonable accuracy then you can take down any satellite you like by just scattering a few thousand ball bearings.

        The difficult bit is identifying your target, and that only needs good telescopes.

        What stops countries doing it is that triggering Kessler Syndrome would be really bad for everyone, not just the target.

        1. druck Silver badge

          Re: Just what we want

          An idea would be to pack your satellites with 100Kg of ball bearings, so even if they are destroyed by accurate kinetic missiles, it will cause Kessler Syndrome anyway.

    2. Bebu Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Just what we want

      《Our big defense contractors don't have one individual who is majority owner, so even if the CEO was a loon he couldn't decide to go Dr Evil on us. I mean between the two Bezos already looks like Dr Evil and Musk already acts like him, so I think before anything like this is considered their company has to be publicly traded and no one including but especially them should be allowed to have more than 10% ownership or voting control of the company.》

      So the US has the loon and Dr Evil - one of each and only needs the Orange One to bind them in dark... (oops wrong franchise. ;)

      If having island boltholes and bunkers is a prerequisite then most of the world's billionaires probaby qualify for the loony evil genius ISO-666* tick.

      * Rev. 13:18 but no "ISO 666:2012 Machine tools Mounting of grinding wheels by means of hub flanges."

  7. STOP_FORTH Silver badge
    Boffin

    Physics is no fun

    In space no-one can hear your lasers go pew-pew.

    1. Fred Dibnah

      Re: Physics is no fun

      I wish someone would tell that to TV and film directors (Kubrick excepted).

      1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

        Re: Physics is no fun

        Go ask the directors of The Expanse!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Send up orange barge-arse

    He operates better in a vacuum.

  9. scarletherring

    > America's decaying orbital situation

    Well played, sir, very well played.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe, and this is just some wild spitballing here, we stop cutting NASA's budget, we stop spending billions on a plane that doesn't work, and refocus the absurd amount of money we spend on defense to defense that is applicable for modern combat arenas instead of relying on self interested billionaires. The billionaire we rely on the most has already shown himself to be willing to listen to Putin and restrict usage of Starlink which resulted in Ukrainian losses. Relying on the Musk to prop up our defenses is a national security risk and the people who are entertaining it should be under close scrutiny if not outright removed.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No love for bezo, none

    Only if they contribute at ZERO profit, and are heavily audited. I'm sick of my taxes supporting the greedy.

  12. Gene Cash Silver badge

    "We don't have the luxury of waiting years for programs to deliver"

    Well that rules out Jeff Bezos...

  13. ecofeco Silver badge

    He what?

    I can smell backhanded brown envelope from here.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    First, this article does not mention Musk or Bezos, though implied. And I am waiting for Bezos to show any sign of competence. Maybe when he gets some hardware into orbit.

    I cannot say I lay awake at night worried about Russian space superiority. China is working hard on its capabilities.

  15. RLWatkins

    If that's true, then we're doomed.

    I wonder which of them offered him a "consulting" job once he retires from the military in exchange for that bit of cheerleading?

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: If that's true, then we're doomed.

      Both of course.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    LEO superiority

    Definitely no guarantee that it will belong to the US.

    It would be remarkable if the US could even manage it.

    I have no love for China, but they are not going to stop advancing.

  17. Fr. Ted Crilly Silver badge

    General

    Chance Saltzman, we've heard from him before haven't we. Here he is again trying very hard to sound like Buck Turgidson Standing in front of the big board...

  18. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    Checking article date.. No, not April 1st!

  19. Sub 20 Pilot

    One possibility that will obviously never be looked at - the US could get off their fucking high horse and assumption that they own everything.

    Try to work with other countries instead of threatening anyone and anything they don't like.

    Look at CERN - a fantastic multi national operation where politics and religion don't count. How shit would it be if it was located in the US ?

    Everyone is entitled to make a living and do the best they can.

    Many nations, including the Chinese, are leading on many industries andenvironmental proection despite the twats in power in the US trying to prevent them doing so. Sadly your democrats are no better than the moronic Trump and his republicans in this instance. Would be quite funny if the Chinese asked for their $3.5 trillion loan back.

    Will look forwards to the downvotes, threats of violence etc. that is the normal US response on a once great UK site.

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